Ed Walker is banking on Frankie Dettori’s experience to overcome the dreaded stall one and provide him with a first Investec Derby winner from his first runner in the Epsom Classic.
No horse this century has won from the inside berth, with Oath the last winner from that draw in 1999, but part of the package that comes with booking a top-class pilot like Dettori is that he certainly helps to soothe any worries in that department.
While Walker understandably feels the weight of responsibly that goes with saddling the Derby favourite, the fact his string is in good form and he has arguably the ultimate big-race rider on top are calming factors.
“The nerves have been kicking in for quite a long time, to be honest,” he said.
“It’s pleasing the string seems in good order. A couple of weeks ago I was a little anxious, as a lot of them were running well but some were needing their first runs.
“Quite a lot now are having their second runs and hitting the bullseye, which always helps settle the nerves a bit.
“I have to say the draw doesn’t worry me. Frankie’s not worried and the fact Ryan Moore didn’t choose his ride until after the draw and he went for Mogul, who is next to us in two, suggests to me neither Frankie nor Ryan feel it is impossible to win from down there.
“Frankie has seen and done it all before. A few weeks ago I was expecting a smaller field, so it may be more tactical than normal, but then it’s always tactical in the Derby.
“We’ve got the right man on board to navigate the waters.”
Dettori is taking over from Tom Marquand, who rode English King to his impressive victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial. Twice the winner of the Derby, the Italian has enjoyed a fantastic association with owner Bjorn Nielsen through triple Ascot Gold Cup winner Stradivarius.
“Frankie has that wealth of experience and knows what to expect and when to expect it – Tom doesn’t. That’s what it boiled down to,” explained Walker.
“Bjorn is a great landlord, great friend and great owner. If we can win the Derby for him with a horse from his own stable and fulfil his lifetime dream, it will probably mean I will never have to move yards ever again!
“We don’t truly know how much is left in the tank, so that is enormously exciting.
“We definitely realised we had a very nice horse after he won at Newcastle, but it was after Lingfield we realised we had a live Derby candidate.
“He was always just a very nice, athletic horse who did everything asked of him. Bjorn is a great man to train for as everything is about the Derby – he’s either trying to produce fillies to produce him a Derby winner, or raise colts to win the Derby. It’s a simple remit!
“When you’re sent a colt by Bjorn Nielsen, you work back from the Derby. It hasn’t worked out too many times for me, but thankfully this time it has.”
For Walker, saddling the Derby favourite will be the culmination of a childhood dream and while Stormy Atlantic was fancied for the 2000 Guineas in 2016, he could only beat two home.
“Anybody who is involved in any sport wants to compete at the highest level. If you’re a tennis player you want to play at Wimbledon, a golfer wants to play the Open and a footballer wants to be in the Champions League final,” he said.
“This is the highest level for us, so it’s a real privilege to be here. We’re trying to contain nerves, but there’s a great buzz in the yard and there has been for weeks.
“The Derby is meant to be the toughest race in the world to win. You’re not going to have the usual hullabaloo of Derby day, but you’ve got the undulations of the track and the jostling for position – it can be very messy.
“It’s just great not to be a spectator, like I have been for the last 36 years for this race.”
No Derby winner has hailed from Lambourn since Sir Percy in 2006, but the ‘Valley of the Racehorse’ has a strong hand this year.
Walker added: “There’s a buzz around Lambourn as William Muir has a live chance with Pyledriver, Paul and Ollie Cole have a runner (Highland Chief) and Andrew Balding isn’t far away – he’s obviously got a leading chance with Kameko, so it’s great.
“This season feels a bit more diverse than in previous years, not just the Derby field but in other races we’ve seen so far – let’s hope that continues!”